Walla Walla prison project nears start date

A proposal to plant vines inside the Walla Walla State Penitentiary in Washington State is due for final approval in July, according to the project’s architect Jeremy Petty.

The co-owner of Walla Walla Vineyard Management told the drinks business that after final approval was granted, he intended to plant two hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec on a southeastern block of the prison’s land in March 2020 (pictured).

“I was told by our main prison contact Wes Marcum that he believed the approvals would be finished in July,” said Petty.

“After approval, we need to thoroughly analyse the terroir, take soil samples and also set up the irrigation system. Then we can begin to work the ground. I’ll need to plough, disc, rake and flatten out our ground which stirs things up a bit in the soil. I call it waking up the soil.”

The trial scheme, devised by Petty, is intended to help prisoners learn new skills before their release, and aid in their rehabilitation.

Eventually, any commercially licensed winery will be able to purchase the prison grapes.

“After we work the land, I will have to go through a prisoner training period so I know how to protect and handle the inmates,” said Petty.

“Then I imagine there will be some meetings with local personnel and guards to finalise the day-to-day logistics of transport, etc. After those things are set, we will begin interviewing inmates for the jobs,” he added.

According to Petty, hopeful applicants will be required to have a High School diploma; in addition, their prison record must not list any ‘infractions,’ and they must be due to re-enter society within three years or less.

“Right now the offenders are ecstatic about working in the vineyard,” said Petty. “I have to pay the offenders the wages that workers are getting paid outside the prison, so I don’t compete with private business for what the commodity will costs me.”

“One day, these guys will be out walking among my family, so if I can keep them from re-offending, then I have done my job.”

One Response to “Walla Walla prison project nears start date”

  1. Excellent idea! I wish more prisons would look into something like this or similar to it. When a human being has an opportunity to better themselves and be productive in our society many appreciate it especially if they have families to support. There will always be some who don’t and will re-offend, but hopefully we can help that number to decline in time. We have several prisons around us here in Northern Calif, and you see a lot of men (over women) just wondering the streets once they’ve been released. Sadly drugs are the major cause of most being sent back again.

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